Skip to main content
Women in HE Conference 2021

Women in HE Conference 2021: Building back better for gender equality in HE

This one-day event focussed on issues surrounding women working in HE, such as gender equality, pathways to leadership and pregnancy and maternity.

The last decade has seen progress in all areas of gender equality in HE and in our wider society, there has been positive impacts from making organisations publish their gender pay gaps, greater gender diversity in senior roles and on boards. However gender based violence and harassment is still an issue for all and progress is still slower than it should be. This progress is also at risk of being compromised with the arrival and ongoing impacts of Covid-19.

The pressures of home working, burdens of unpaid caring responsibilities, job vulnerability and adverse impacts on promotion opportunities that have arisen as a consequence of the current global pandemic risks sending the progress made into reverse.

Date: 25 February 2021

Venue: Online

Who: Individuals who are championing gender equality and women who are seeking to develop their careers in more senior roles within HE

Building back better

Moving forward, there is a danger that we focus on the undoubtedly negative impact that Covid-19 has had on women’s equality and conflate remote working with increased childcare and domestic responsibilities as well as poor mental health and wellbeing. Yet remote working is not new and has been a key tool pre Covid-19 to support women’s equality and career progression. This alongside better technological options offers immense possibility to allow and enable women to better balance the personal and the professional and enable participation in opportunities vital for success and thriving.

Now is the time to reflect on what has happened through the pandemic, work together to avoid regression, and harness this opportunity – to ‘build back better’ for gender equality. 

Join the conversation at #WomenHEConf21

Yellow line

Conference aims

The Advance HE Women in HE Conference 2021 took a look back at the insights we have gained from our work on gender equality over the course of the last 12 months through the Athena Swan Charter, the publication of the 5 year Aurora longitudinal study and the findings of our survey into the impact of the shift to greater home working through Covid-19 on gender. We used these insights and those of others from within and outside of the sector, through our invited guest speakers and contributors, to consider solutions and options for gender progression at this time of huge challenge for all in HE. 

The aims of the Women in HE Conference 2021 were to:

  • Share insights and learning from studies inside and external to Advance HE on the impact of Covid-19 for women - where have we lost ground and why?
  • Use these insights to gain a better sense of what works for gender equality more widely 
  • Offer opportunities to discuss and consider options and solutions that enable us to maintain and achieve growth, or ‘build back better’ harnessing the changes for positive benefit
  • Connect a community of peers that can aid and support each other during times of change and challenge 

Conference programme

Women in HE Conference 2021 programme

Download Resource

Yellow line

A new digital conferencing experience

This year's Women in HE conference was delivered virtually on 25 February 2021. Our virtual conference platform provided delegates with a flexible, immersive and engaging digital experience where you could develop your practice, share your ideas and grow your network. All delegates had access to the following features:

  • a full day of live-streamed sessions of speakers, panel discussions and workshops addressing current issues for women and gender equality in HE
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments during all sessions
  • full online support throughout the day
  • flexibility to attend sessions at leisure with access to all session recordings after the conference allowing you to browse and catch up on anything you may have missed at a time suited to you
  • opportunity to interact with other delegates from around the world in a virtual networking space
  • access to resources related to the subject of gender equality, EDI and women in HE


Yellow line

Conference speakers

Alison Johns

Alison was appointed chief executive of Advance HE in autumn 2017. Prior to that she was the chief executive of the Leadership Foundation and has worked in higher education for 25 years. Before becoming chief executive, she was head of policy for leadership, governance and management at the Hefce (now the Office for Students), where she established both the Leadership Foundation and the Equality Challenge Unit. 

Find out more about Alison

Alison Johns

Ellen Pugh

Ellen is a Senior Adviser at Advance HE specialising in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. She has many years of experience working to promote equality, in particular gender and disability equality in the higher education sector across the UK. Ellen has been a member of several Joint Negotiating Committees for Higher Education Staff working groups to improve understanding and information on gender pay issues in the HE sector.

Find out more about Ellen

Ellen Pugh

Dr Amanda Aldercotte

Amanda has lead Advance HE’s research team since November 2017 and over the course of the last three years has helped establish team’s unique position as qualified researchers working within the realms of higher education and equality, diversity and inclusion. 

Find out more about Amanda

Amanda Aldercotte

Academic entrepreneurship: Closing the Gender Gap in University Spinout Companies - insights for building back better

Professor Simonetta Manfredi

Simonetta Manfredi is Professor of Equality and Diversity Management, and Associate Dean for Research and Knowledge Exchange in the Business School at Oxford Brookes University in the UK. 

Find out more about Simonetta

Simonetta Manfredi

Conversational panellists

Professor Parveen Yaqoob

Parveen Yaqoob is Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the University of Reading and the Chair of the Athena Swan Governance Committee.

Find out more about Parveen

Professor Parveen Yaqoob

Professor Michelle Ryan

Michelle Ryan is a Professor of Social and Organisational Psychology at the University of Exeter, UK and a (part-time) Professor of Diversity at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. She currently holds a European Research Council Consolidator Grant to investigate how context constrains women’s careers choices.

Find out more about Michelle

Michelle Ryan

Fiona Mactaggart

Fiona Mactaggart is a leading feminist campaigner and former Labour MP for Slough. She is a former Home Office Minister and Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, and spent 20 years in parliament but stood down before the last election. Throughout her professional life she has campaigned to improve women’s lives and fight inequality and discrimination.

Find out more about Fiona

Fiona Mactaggart

Dr Sarah Liu

Dr. Sarah Liu is Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on the cross-national comparison of gender and politics, specifically the ways contexts shape the gender gap in political attitudes and activities.

She co-founded and currently chairs the Scotland Feminist Politics and International Relations Network and the University of Edinburgh’s Staff BAME Network.

Find out more about Sarah

Dr Sarah Liu

Case study parallel workshop speakers

What is the role of allyship in supporting gender equality?

Dr Eurig Scandrett

Dr Eurig Scandrett is Senior Lecturer in Public Sociology at Queen Margaret University, a branch representative in University and College Union and a longstanding supporter of feminist activism. He has supported formal and informal education and research into understanding and tackling violence against women.

Find out more about Eurig

Dr Eurig Scandrett

How does Job Sharing in Senior Roles Really Work and How can We Encourage More Institutions to Consider This at All Levels

Professor Parveen Yaqoob

Parveen Yaqoob is Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the University of Reading and the Chair of the Athena Swan Governance Committee.

Find out more about Parveen

Professor Parveen Yaqoob

Professor Dominik Zaum 

Professor Dominik Zaum is Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at the University of Reading, a role he holds as a job share with Prof Parveen Yaqoob. Before this, he was a Research Dean, and Head of the School of Politics, Economics, and International Relations. 

Find out more about Dominik

Professor Dominik Zaum

Insights from an Athena Swan Gold Award Holder

Professor Louise Bryant

Louise Bryant is Professor of Psychological and Social Medicine at the University of Leeds. Involved with Athena SWAN since 2012, she is the Associate Dean for Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion at the School of Medicine at Leeds. The School was awarded Athena SWAN Gold chartered status in 2019. Louise is also Academic Lead for Gender Equality at the University of Leeds.

Louise Byrant

Key Findings from the Aurora Longitudinal Study

Dr Sarah Barnard

Dr Sarah Barnard is lecturer in sociology of contemporary work in the School of Business and Economics at Loughborough University. Sarah’s fields of research include organisations, gender, higher education and sociology of science, engineering and technology. Particular interests include gendered aspects of careers and career choice, organisational practices and policies and the ways organisational culture are related to these aspects. 

Dr Sarah Barnard

Professor John Arnold

John Arnold is professor of organisational behaviour at the School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University, UK.

 Particular interests include career choice, personal development and adjustment, work role identities and transitions (including the transition into working life), career success and failure, mid/late career issues, and the impact of career management interventions such as mentoring, development centres and succession planning.

Find out more about John

John Arnold
Yellow line

Women in HE Conference 2020 highlights

To view the highlights of last year's Women in HE Conference 2020, please visit our web page here.